- Faith & Family
When a problem arises between two convicts that, for whatever reasons, can not be resolved peacefully, one will eventually give the other a call out to a head-up fade,
which in others words is an invitation to a one-on-one fist fight. If they are in a housing unit that only has two-man cells, most likely the brawl will go down in a cell away from the security. But if they housed in an open bay dormitory where there no built-in cells to use as a blind spot, to avoid being seen by the dormitory officer, both parties will scramble towards an area inside the dormitory where it is safe for them to throw hands, which usually is located far off in a corner.
Aside from settling disputes, because of its somewhat hidden location, the corner is an area where a number of underground events take place in a prison environment: from shooting dice to smoking marijuana from drinking buck (homemade wine) to sharpening homemade knives — its is the ideal locale for a wide range of illicit activity. To ensure that prisoners are able to get away with violating any of the rules of prohibited conduct occurring in the corner, although it is the responsibility of every true convict to volunteer support, a lookout man is enlisted with the duty of announcing when the “police” is coming. As soon as an approaching officer is spotted, the lookout, man would promptly holler “one time” “Bo Brown” or make quick siren sounds as to not only warn inmates in the corner, but also to everyone in the whole entire dormitory to cease all illegal activity — at least until after Bo Brown had departed the area.
Before coming to prison, and before hearing rapper Nonchalant rap “five o’clock in the morning — where you gon’ be? Outside on the corner,” I can recall my grandmother giving me strict instructions to “stay off the corner!” every time I exited her house. Of course, she was referring to that little curved white wall right up the block where drugs were being sold, where people have a tendency of succumbing to gun violence. Even if one was not participating in wrongdoing, something tragic could befall them for merely standing on that corner.
If you really think about it, not too many good things can be said about the disposition of any corner. In boxing, a fighter is trained to avoid being maneuvered into that particular area of the ring; a cat is terrified with idea of being trapped in such a position; the conventional strategy in chess is to monopolize the center of the chessboard as opposed to vying for corner superiority.
Ironically, although the corner is a far cry from being the favorite hang-out spot for model prisoners, it so happens to be the location where a small group of inmates in my dormitory have taken it upon themselves to come together every night for prayer call. While I personally have never attended any of those prayer meetings, I certainly admire the positive energy that these men have created for themselves in forming a circle, joining hands and bowing their heads for a few moments of devotion at the conclusion of each day, ending each prayer with the whole group joyfully shouting three times in unison: “As the prayers go up — the blessings come down!”
As I am no different from other prisoners who engage in folly from dusk to dawn, from a distance, I have found that closing each day on a positive note via prayer meeting can be highly infectious. If it is effective at offsetting the corner of a prison dormitory, a corner saturated with full days worth of wickedness, then surely it can add a positive balance to the tainted corners of our lives.
By Arthur Lee Hall, Jr.